Not even the elite of China’s Communist Party can avoid the regime’s tight-fisted edicts - or resist seeking redress with an old-fashioned lawsuit.
The daughter of a Chinese Communist Party founder is struggling to keep her family’s home from being seized by the government that gave the house to her father decades ago for his service under Mao Zedong.
Xu Xiaoqi, daughter of Maj. Gen. Xu Zhizhong, was told in 2003 that she and her 83-year-old mother would be evicted from their home and moved to a much smaller apartment. Ms. Xu and her mother have remained in their house and have taken their case to court.
“They are scolding me, shouting at me, but I will still confront them so I can let everyone know,” Ms. Xu, a 56-year-old newspaper editor, said via a Skype interview.
Forced evictions are widespread in China. Because urban land belongs to the government, officials can develop it as they see fit, even by turning families out of homes without due compensation. According to a report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a U.S. human rights watchdog, thousands protested such evictions between 2003 and 2005.
Current regulations on evictions date from 2001. Since January, the Beijing government has reviewed modifications to better compensate victims, but no date has been set for approval.
Ms. Xu said members of the Beijing Municipal City Planning Commission, which wants her home for a development project, have harassed her by beating her on the street and forcing their way into her house.
“They’ve resorted to using dirty means to make [Ms. Xu and her mother] go, because they can do anything,” said Li Weiping, a horse trainer formerly in the People’s Liberation Army Navy and a longtime friend of Ms. Xu‘s.
What frustrates Ms. Xu most is that the central government is doing nothing, she said, adding that her many letters to officials have gone unanswered. “They have no heart, they don’t care for us.”
Ms. Xu said she will keep fighting and preparing for the trial. Although she has not been given a date for a hearing, she said it should occur within the next few weeks.
“In adversity, some fight and some don’t; Xiaoqi is definitely one of the fighters,” said Michael Crook, a British teacher in Beijing who has known Ms. Xu since they went to the same boarding school as children.
He said some of Ms. Xu’s courage stems from her family status as one of the Communist Party’s elite, which gives her and others like her a sense of ownership.
Ms. Xu does not know if she can win the lawsuit, but Mr. Li said she has a strong case if she testifies about her harassment. “She is completely within the law, so [the government] can’t legally do anything,” he said.
But Mr. Li admitted he has no idea what will happen.
Ms. Xu said she hopes to get help from a program headed by Initiatives for China, a group promoting a peaceful transition to democracy. Yang Jianli, the group’s founder and president, said they will use the media to pressure officials. “It adds the element of fear, which may help her win the case,” he said.
Ms. Xu said her biggest concern is to protect herself and her mother, but she hopes her resistance will “rouse the people, so they can protect themselves.”
“Whatever happens, this is a good thing, because others will see her struggle and speak up for themselves,” Mr. Li said.